By Joe Smyth | firstname.lastname@example.org | @joesmyth
Wind energy projects are increasing jobs, tax revenue, and lease payments to landowners in the Eastern Plains of Colorado - and in the process, attracting support from leaders of both major parties in the state.
State legislators and other officials joined Xcel Energy and wind turbine manufacturer Vestas this week to highlight the economic benefits of wind energy in eastern Colorado, with a tour of the 600 megawatt Rush Creek wind energy project. The wind energy project in Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson and Lincoln counties is currently under construction, and is expected to come online in October 2018.
“Wind is a huge win-win for rural Colorado,” said Shawn Martini, Vice President of Advocacy for the Colorado Farm Bureau. “Rush Creek is just one project and we’re poised to see even bigger investments should Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan be approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, which, for the growth and health of our communities, we hope they do.”
Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan would mean a major expansion of renewable energy in the state, including additional major wind energy projects in eastern Colorado. According to an analysis from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder that was filed last week last with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the Colorado Energy Plan would result in net economic benefits in Colorado, including a net increase of 549 jobs.
If the Colorado Energy Plan is approved by the Colorado PUC, several counties in eastern Colorado would see new or repowered wind energy projects. The largest project would be a new 800 megawatt wind energy project in Kit Carson and Cheyenne counties, amounting to a $1.1 billion investment. The plan also includes a new 169 megawatt wind project in Weld County, and the repowering of a 162 megawatt wind project in Baca County.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine service technician will be the second fastest growing occupation over the next decade, behind only solar photovoltaic installer. Colorado also includes thousands of jobs in wind turbine manufacturing, with the Vestas wind tower manufacturing facility in Pueblo and wind blade manufacturing facilities in Brighton and Windsor, which were used to build the 300 wind turbines for the Rush Creek project. According to a report this month from E2, Colorado ranked seventh among all 50 states in clean energy jobs, including 7,320 jobs in the wind energy industry.
Republican State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, whose district includes much of Colorado’s Eastern Plains, applauded the Rush Creek wind project for creating jobs in Colorado communities: “Rush Creek is a terrific project that has employed hundreds during construction and will continue to employ wind technicians, many of which are from our local communities. Rather than continuing to export our best local resource, our children, the growing wind industry is providing new opportunities that are allowing more of them to stay local.”
According to the E2 report, 3,553 of Colorado’s clean energy jobs are located in Senator Sonnenberg’s district, among the highest of any state senate district in the state.
Congressman Jared Polis, who was nominated as the Democratic candidate for Governor this week, also highlighted the potential for more renewable energy jobs in rural Colorado. At a debate last week, Polis said: “We also need to talk about how renewable energy - and our plan is to get the whole state to 100% renewable energy - can be a great source of jobs in rural Colorado. In the Eastern Plains, the renewable energy corridor of Colorado, having solar or wind on your property for farmers means extra income, might mean there's a job in town for your kid or grandkid, in deploying or maintaining solar and wind energy to help power Colorado.”
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